Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Whiting Overlook Park

After seeing several photographs of eagles and pelicans on Facebook I decided to head up to Midland and see this park for myself.

Nature and industry coexisting.

I could tell from many of the photos that this was not a conventional park filled with hiking trails and wide swaths of woods for wandering.

But I was still surprised to find that it consisted of a parking lot on top of a high hill overlooking ponds which are part of the Dow Chemical complex.

As I drove up the hill I could see an eagle sitting in a tree.

Guarding the park.

The light wasn’t good, a bank of clouds was encroaching on the sunshine I’d left at home, two hours to the south. Still, on occassion when I first arrived, the sun broke through the clouds.

Oh! And a juvinile down below!

And it was windy! Between trying to focus on the eagle who flew out over the water as soon as I arrived, and trying to keep my hair out of the frame, I almost missed the pelicans swimming very close to the edge of the pond, behind the chain link fence.

It was hard shooting through the chain link fence.

While I was trying to catch an image of them, shooting through the fence, I lost track of the eagle until I heard a whole lot of eagle type noises coming from the trees.

Look closely, there are three juviniles here, all landing in a tree.

Turns out there were three juviniles, all landing close together. I’m pretty sure one of them had a fish.

This little diving duck was surprised when he came up right in front of the pelican!

Pretty much the whole time I was there I was pointing the camera either at the water following the pelicans, or the sky trying to get a sharp image of the eagles.

The light felt like it was evening, but it was 9:30 in the morning.

I was facinated how these beautiful wild birds coexisted so well with industry.

Such an unusual place to witness an eagle in flight.

I was unsure if the eagles coexist with each other quite as well.

Looks like the adult has something to say.

Mostly the eagles soared round and round, higher and higher. I never saw any of them dive into the water, though when they were flying closer to the ponds the ducks seemed to scatter.

The sky was interesting, but made shooting the birds so difficult.

It was hard to keep track of the big birds, they were really very far away. Sometimes the only way I knew where they were was their noisy discussion amongst themselves.

The light caught his head and the lead edge of his wing.

When the sun slid out for a moment it was easier to find the adult, with his bright white head…

Sometimes the tail was the give away.

…and tail.

The whole time I was there, sitting in the car until an eagle took off from a tree, then popping out to try to get an image, I didn’t think I got anything worth looking at.

He turned into a painting.

I was shooting pretty much into the light, what light there was. And the birds were so darn far away. These were all shot with my longest lens, and they are still cropped a whole lot. Hence the painterly looking images.

I think I’ll go back some day when the sun is shining brighter, and perhaps later in the day to get the sun behind me rather than shining in my eyes.

The best part of the day was just sitting and watching them fly.

I felt lucky today that they were so active. I didn’t get the perfect eagle (or pelican for that matter) shot, but I got to see them flying, so much more fun than watching them watch me while they sit still on a branch.

Landing gear down, more pelicans arrive.

None of these images are great, but I had fun, and I figured you’d have fun looking at them too.

Soar like an eagle….

If you’re a birder, this would be a fun place to visit with powerful binoculars. You can sit in the car and watch some amazing birds. Can’t beat it! (You might want to look at these pictures on something bigger than your phone!)

The clouds moved in and I moved out.


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Waiting on my numbers

Hey everybody! Katie here.

So most of you know that I’ve been fighting kidney disease for much of this year. I go to the vet every month and donate my blood so the lady vet can see how I’m doing.

Me at my park where they have a children’s storybook walk.

Daddy and mama took me to the vet yesterday, they say I shouldn’t be so scared every time, but they aren’t there in the back room when those vet techs get my blood! I’m starting to feel like a pin cushion, all those needle pricks over the past nine months!

At a rest stop on our way home from the vet yesterday.

It’s scary back there, I tell you, and I’m so glad when they take me back to my daddy; I’m always ready to go go go back out to the car where mama waits impatiently for me.

During one of my neighborhood patrols.

But the lady vet and daddy always have to stand around and talk after I give away my blood. They usually look at all the test results, but this time they just talked about my poop!

Checking out my yard.

Geeze! Can’t a princess have a little privacy about anything? Mama and daddy have been taking pictures of my poop for weeks! I guess having soft runny poop is not a good thing. Who knew?

My yard has a katsura tree and all the leaves fell off in one day!

Now I have medicine to help my poops get back to normal. Mama says we’ll see. Literally I guess, right?

My yard has a ginkgo tree too. It’s leaves also fall off in a single day!

And the test results? The ones that will tell us if I’m getting worse? Well, the lady vet sent my blood out to a lab instead of running the tests right there, so we won’t know until sometime next week.

At my park.

I’ll keep you posted, cause I know you want to know!

Meanwhile, I’m chowing down like the food hog I’ve always been and that makes mama and daddy smile.

A little snow.

I hope you all have a great week, and those of you in the United States enjoy Thanksgiving! Mama and daddy say they are very thankful for me. Well of course they are. And I guess, if I’m honest, I’m very thankful for them too.

Another favorite park.

And I’m also thankful for each of you, my loyal subjects. Thank you for stopping by and reading about my poop during a holiday week. I should probably talk to mama about being more appropriate, but you know how mama is. No sense of decorum, that woman.

I love being in the woods with mama!

Anyway, these photos were taken the past couple of weeks during all the walks at my parks and around the neighborhood that mama’s been taking me on. She says she knows how much I love the colder weather and she wants me to get out and enjoy as much of it as I can.

Just another thing I’m thankful for, fall in Michigan!

Come on, mama!

Talk later, your cool air loving, pincushion girl, Katie.

All this walking makes a princess sleepy.


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Shiawasee Nature Refuge part two

So where did I leave you? Ah yes….at the viewing platform overlooking the wetlands, about two miles from the car.

An excellent place to watch the birds.

Since we’ve been lugging the camera backpack filled with lenses and spare batteries all this way, this would be a good time to change to the long lens. Don’t you think? And perhaps take a sip from the water bottle that’s been adding weight to the bag for the long trek out here.

I loved the stripes of color.

There, that’s better.

So, out here in the open marsh you can here sandhill cranes and Canadian geese as they fly in and out. A few trumpeter swans too. No pelicans this time, and that’s disappointing, but I’m too late in the season for much of a variety.

These guys decided to move on to a place less habited by nosey humans.

The other people on the viewing platform have high powered binoculars, and they are watching a northern harrier harrass a young bald eagle. I can’t see any of that of course, but I enjoy listening to them talk about it.

Yep way over there is a tree that often hosts eagles. In fact that might be one to the left, or that might be the harrier.

Mostly I watch the geese that were nearest to me and enjoy the sun and the sitting down for a bit.

And then I decide I’ll head back, but take a path I’ve never chosen before, out past the tree where, on a previous visit, I’d seen so many eagles, out along the edge of the wetlands, because you just never know what you’ll find.

It was a beautiful day, even if I didn’t get any great shots of an eagle.

And I do find the juvinile eagle, I think, though I can’t get a close enough view of him to be sure. I have a longer lens than I had last year, but he was still a long ways away. For all I know, this is the harrier, rather than the eagle. He (or she) is fun to watch either way, soaring high above the grasses, searching for a meal.

A super cropped image of a bird. Might be an eagle. But I think it’s the harrier. Cool either way.

I come across a passel of cranes, standing around out there in a clump. No noise, just hanging out. When they see me noticing them they begin to walk away at a fast clip, so I move on, not wanting to upset them.

Moving quietly back into the grass so as not to attract any more attention.

And then I begin the long wander back to the car. It is a beautiful day and I’m not at all disappointed that I don’t have anything spectacular to shoot. But wait! There’s an eagle’s nest! Wow, that thing is huge! Now I know which way I’ll walk next spring when there might be some activity there, maybe early in the season before leaves obscure the view.

This won’t be easy to see once the tree leafs out.

It’s not far from the tree where I’ve seen eagles, adult and juviniles…and it’s in the direction I always see them flying from out there. Now it all makes sense. I’m excited for next season!

But other than that my walk back is just filled with beautiful fall sights. I am walking on a path less traveled, and mostly not mowed, so I am glad for my waterproof hiking shoes keeping my feet dry.

Even though I am on the lookout for birds of any size, and though I hear a few, I don’t see any. I probably need to sit in one place, as I’ve considered on other visits to this park, and wait for something to come by in stead of tromping noisily through the woods.

But I am hungry, and tired, and still a long way from the car, so I trek on.

I like the spunkiness of the little tree growing in the remains of it’s ancestor.

The views don’t disappoint. Just about any direction I look there is something pretty.

Another dyke flanked by leaning trees. These always remind me of Marines at a wedding, with their swords forming a tunnel for the bride and groom. Actually, a wedding woud be amazing here.

I can’t stop taking pictures, but that’s no surprise to anyone. Right?

Such great colors and shapes, it’s impossible to resist taking just one more shot.

But eventually I put the lens cap back on, resolving to move faster toward the car and the banana waiting for me. I even pass up the opportunity to sit on a bench, because I know I am only half a mile away from the parking lot.

A tempting bench. If I’d had my lunch with me I might have stopped.

I promise myself I’m not taking any more images. Just going to forge ahead, eyes front, no stopping. Really.

Hmmmm….what’s making all that noise over there?

But I can’t ignore the huge ruckus coming up from a field just beyond the trees to my right. When I come to an opening I see what must be the party room for cranes. Because they are dancing up a storm. So I had to take the lens cap back off. You would have too, I’m sure.

And then I hear this little guy, and since he is the only little bird I’ve seen clearly all day, well, the lens cap comes off again.

It’s not even a good shot, but he is the only one that cooperated, so he gets to be in the blog.

And then, finally, I make it back to the car. My 4+ mile walk through the woods is over, and I know I wouldn’t be back until spring. Unless I decide a winter hike is in order. I guess I’ll put that idea into the ‘things to ponder’ file drawer and see what the winter weather is like this year.

Always notice the light.

More likely I’ll be back in the spring, when northern migration is happening and there will be more activity to wittness. I’ll be sure to bring you along whenever I go back. Maybe I’ll even carry a banana with me so I can stay out there longer.

Come along with me, the walking is marvelous!

You’ll be responsible for your own snacks. And your waterproof shoes.

Stay tuned.


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Sharing something magical

Do you want to join me on a magical walk? Well, come along! I’ve sorted my more than 800 images down to only a few dozen to represent the wonderful morning I spent at the Shiawasee National Wildlife Refuge this past Monday.

I knew I was late in the migration season. The herons and egrets were long gone. No pelicans to watch. I figured even the sandhill cranes should have moved on by now, though I still see them out at my favorite park. I wasn’t even sure why I was out there when the chances of seeing anything special were so slim.

Waiting for sunrise from the trailhead parking lot for Fergeson Bayou Trail.

But since it was one of our last beautiful fall days I thought I’d stand there on the observation deck in the parking lot and wait, just see what the sun would bring.

After a few minutes in the cold silence I went back to the car to get my gloves.

And right about then I heard a sound. I couldn’t quite place it. It sounded like a gentle wave was rising softly against the sand on some distant beach. It got louder. And louder. And then, squinting in the dim light, I saw them. Thousands and thousands of little birds coming across the marsh toward me in the pinking morning sky.

Just a tiny bit of the huge swarm of little birds, the first ones up and out that morning.

The sound swished and washed and surrounded me for only a moment and then they were gone, disappearing into the light in the east. The experience was so amazing that I thought if I saw nothing else, heard nothing else, I’d still be glad I made the hour plus drive so early in the morning.

And then I heard the cranes. (Click on the link to hear them, in fact listen to them while you read this, it will feel more like you’re really there!) It started with just a couple of those distinctive cries coming from somewhere far away. And then the sound grew.

Already high in the sky the crains were headed out by the dozens.

I saw the first three cranes flying out for breakfast. And then a few more. And more. And then more and more and more and more.

The sun was still low, and it lit the undersides of the birds as they flew overhead.

I don’t know how long I stood there, alone in an empty parking lot, fingers no longer cold, grinning like crazy trying to get the shot, the feeling, of what it was like to have so much craziness just above my head in the pink sky.

And then there was a different sound, lower, almost hidden under the screeching of the crane voices. What could that be? I lowered the camera and searched for the source.

These two announced themselves as they flew under the chaos above.

Trumpeter swans! Just a couple of them, making a more gutteral sound, announcing their presence. As if to say, notice us! We’re here too!

Then my attention was back on the waves of cranes still coming toward me. Wave after wave of them.

The rising sun made the colors almost as intense as the sounds of the flying birds.

Even with all the activity I began to wonder…how many images of flying cranes does a person need? Well, just one more.

On their way to breakfast, they danced overhead.

Well, I thought to myself, I could stand out here all day, but there’s more to explore. Best to get moving.

There aren’t many days left for wandering these trails before the winter sets in. In fact, there are some weeks where hiking is prohibited as the preserve allows hunting to manage the deer population. I’ve never been here this late in the season and I was startled to see the hunting blinds places strategically along the trail.

Hidden in plain sight.

I understand the need, but I wished the couple of white-tailed deer I glimpsed good luck next week when the hunters will be back on the job.

The trail here is on top of a series of dykes, most of the time there’s water on both sides. When I’m here earlier in the season the water is filled with migrating ducks, but in November their safe places are filled with fallen leaves instead.

Almost as pretty, though less exciting for sure.

Pretty, but quiet, without the ducks flying up out of the water as I approach.

Along the way, while trying to get a shot of trees in early light, I stepped on something soft that exploded around my knees in a foggy mist.

If I didn’t know better I’d have thought this was part of a destroyed seat cushion!

That was cool, but it reminded me to watch more carefully where I was going. And to listen better too, as this early morning walker startled me with her quiet approach.

She was moving fast, getting her cardio.

We smiled hello to each other and she briskly moved on past. I stayed to get this shot:

Not so much cardio in photography I guess.

And then I heard that distinctive low sound overhead again. I pointed the camera up and waited.

More trumpeter swans!

Once they did their fly over I tried to pick up my pace. I was still a distance away from the turn around point, a viewing platform out in an open wetland. By now I knew there were other people already there, the woman, her lovely husband with the English accent who followed her and another birder I’d met earlier in my walk. All three of them had passed me as I lolly-gagged along, taking photos.

Still lots of color back in the woods.

There’s all sorts of reasons you’d enjoy your time here, birding and photography are just a couple. It would be worth the walk just to see such beautiful places. But since you can’t all get there, I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

One of my favorite places to grab an image.

I have more, but this seems long enough. Do you wonder what I saw when I got out to that viewing platform? There’s always something to see out there.

What’s that over there?

I’ll share the rest with you in the next post. Katie demands attention now. And you know how she is.

Best to get to getting, she says.

So I will.

Let’s just see what’s around that next corner…


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Veterans Day

Here in the states November 11th is a day reserved for honoring our veterans.

“May their rememberance be as lasting as this land they honored.” – Daniel Webster

There’s a National Cemetary near me where I sometimes wander, reading the markers and contemplating matters.

“We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.” – Unknown

It’s a beautiful place no matter the season, but it’s particularly beautiful when it’s decorated to honor those buried there.

“Here men endured that a nation might live.” – Herbert Hoover

On this Veterans Day I will remember those who served our country.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” -Joseph Campbell

I hope those of you here in the US will stop for a moment and think about them too.


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Come on over, Canada!

The United States opened it’s borders today to all Canadians, even those with nonessential business. We’ve missed our neighbors and encourage them to come on over!

This leaf, seen on today’s walk, reminded me of the Canada/United States border.

There are rules, of course. Everyone coming across the border has to be fully vaccinated. And to get back into their country they’ll need a recent negative covid test.

Change is still hard.


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A little crane conversation

Last week I ran up to the post office on my way out to Katie’s park. Katie was in the back seat. My camera was on the passenger seat. I dropped off the letters that needed to be mailed and was headed to Katie’s park when I noticed these two having an intense conversation.

Or something.

“I’m tired of discussing it.”
“We haven’t solved anything yet.”
“But I don’t WANT to talk about it anymore!”
“We should be able to talk about it like rational adults.”
But I don’t WANT to!”
“I swear, you never let anything just go!”
“OMG, you are just too much!”
“Whatever.”